27 November 2014

Then and now...

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When we first saw our nest, we fell in love with three things; the location, the well-lit, quaint 50's interior and the flat backyard. Here in Hobart, so many of the blocks are steep, so a flat backyard is a rare find. We overlooked the lack of a climbing tree and the vast quantity of lawn and we moved right in…

Since then, our garden has seen much transformation. We've always had the odd raised bed veggie patch which has raised a neighbour's eyebrow or two. We've put chickens to work and planted a few trees (and placentas and beloved pets) up the back. We've added a trampoline. And we've generally lamented the whole day it took to mow the huge expanse.

We've deduced that the previous owners - as would have been the case for many families of their era - would have been happy to work five days a week, spend Saturdays mowing the lawn and Sundays at the local church and pottering... For us, life is just too full and our lifestyle couldn't be much more removed from that rhythm. We'd so much rather grow food to nourish our bodies than buy all of it in and spend all the energy made tending a flat expanse of lawn. So we trained ourselves up in permaculture and, in the last 12 months, we did this.

This is one corner of the garden. There's a food forest, a chook/orchard system and a spiral-shaped vegetable garden there. The soil is improving with each season and rather than water running down to a puddle in one corner, we keep most of it on-site to nurture the trees we've planted. There are lots of fruit trees. About 6 months of apples and then nectarine, pear, plum, quince, cherries and apricot. There are all sorts of berries and currants, rhubarb to feed the neighbourhood and more artichokes than we know what to do with. There's a pond with frogs in it! There are herbs for every meal and for medicine. And there's that calming, grounding space to wander through and tend at the end of the day.

It is FAR from perfect. Full of weeds we've come to find useful and twitch we'd rather live without. There are things planted too close together or not on time. There are mistakes. And there are wins. But most of all, there is life and slowing down. There is shade and abundance. And there's a garden to tend that nourishes and teaches us everyday.

Don't forget to sign up and join us for our Spiral Garden Seedlings Permaculture e-course, starting mid-January. We'll be sharing some knowledge and loads of activities we've had fun sharing with our owlets while we explain the ethics and principles of permaculture to them. There's even a minecraft component too! Hope you can join us! xx


20 November 2014

An Owlet Permaculture Advent-ure

It's that time of year where we start thinking about the days leading up to the end of our year. We've been working ever so hard lately. Every spare minute is spent writing, wrapping, emailing, ordering and then doing all those other things we do with our Owlets. Our nest could do with some attention and we're not gardening nearly as much as we'd like. But, you know, time keeps rolling on and we're doing an ok job of things…

But, in the busy-ness of it all, at this time of year, we always love to make time to celebrate. We celebrate the year that's nearly finished and look forward to the year to come. We give a little extra attention to our animals and plants and take stock. We celebrate summer's arrival and the festivals that are important to us and our loved ones. We set aside a little time for adventure and we create an activity advent calendar to guide us through our days. It's a fab way to stop and have fun while getting things done and taking some of the emphasis off Christmas day. The whole month is exciting!

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In recent years, we've enjoyed following our own loose interpretation of the Waldorf/Steiner advent celebration. We choose some activities that match the theme or element of the week:

The first light of Advent is the light of stones. 
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones. 
The second light of Advent is the light of plants. 
Roots, stem, leaf, flower and fruit by whom we live and grow. 
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts. 
Animals of farm, field, forest, air and sea. 
All await the birth in greatest and in least. 
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind. 
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand.

But this year, we're thinking we'd like to mix it up with a little permaculture-based thinking. Some of these may not be obvious, but they will make for good reminders or discussion for our little permaculturalist owlets. We'll be reflecting on the permaculture ethics (earth care, people care and fair share) and some of the principles we've covered with them so far in our Seedlings course.

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So here's our plan for December:

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 1. Paint everyone's toenails - that's totally stones, right? And the permaculture ethic of "people care" too! It's our favourite way to say "Yay! Summer!"
2. Paint stone garden markers - hmmm… maybe something like this
3. Make some clay ornaments for the Christmas tree. - Handmade all the way, and these are cute! 
4. Stargazing in the backyard - reminding us to pause and observe this wonderful universe we're part of.
5. Go on a shell/fossil/gemstone fossick - A day trip adventure for this one - observation and slowing down.
6. Compost! - move the compost heap, start a new one and nourish the soil around our plants for the season.
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7. Go fruit picking - foraging or visit a fruit farm.
8. Make a wreath using plants or recycled materials. - in the past we've used fabric scraps and newspaper.
9. Make some jam - preferably using our foraged fruit. These will make great gifts. Here's one we made earlier.
10. Make some wrapping paper - hand printed or painted - maybe a plant theme this year?
11. Plant a tree - A little gratitude for the earth and it's bounty.
12. Collect a Christmas tree - we usually forage a weedy roadside pine tree that we can mulch for the garden later.
13. Have a picnic brunch under a tree - Yay! Nature!
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14. Plant a herb and weed foraging garden for the chooks, full of all the things they'll love.
15. Decorate the Christmas tree - with all our handmade ornaments.
16. Make a bird feeder - sharing with our feathered friends while encouraging them away from the food forest.
17. Visit the Marine Discovery Centre or go rock pooling - A little animal observation and finding out what lives in our river.
18. Donate some food, money or time to the local animal shelter. - fair share for animals.
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19. Donate a gift to the ABC Giving Tree - fair share for children less fortunate than our owlets.
20. Make a gift for someone you love - handmade secret squirrel stuff!
21. Go looking at Christmas lights - community spirit and sparkly statements of christmas cheer. Good times!
22. Celebrate Summer Solstice - a little gift and maybe a beach picnic?
23. Have a dance party in the lounge room - some crazy fun and lots of giggles. People care! 
24. Give some handmade gifts to the neighbours - a chance to share our surplus, say thanks, hello and Merry Christmas!

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Maybe you'd like to join in with us? We'd really love that! Swap the days around or substitute activities for whatever works best for you and yours.

If you've signed up for our Spiral Garden Seedlings permaculture course, this will be a good introduction before our mid-january start. It'll give you some lovely things to share with the Seedlings community and some fun times and happy memories too! Tag us @spiralgarden and #spiralgardenseedlings if you feel like sharing as we go! xx 


30 October 2014

People doing ace things :: Noisy Ritual

Photos via  Tajette O'Halloran Photography






























I was having a little chat with a friend last night about supporting things. I was thanking her for supporting a crowd funding campaign I'd recommended and she said that she liked supporting goers. People who get stuff done. It got me thinking about all the goers I know out there. Following their dreams, bringing things together, and making the world a little more sparkly. I've always liked those sorts of people too. I've been fortunate to have many of them around me and to have grown up in a family where no-one ever suggested that we shouldn't just have a go. So I thought I might start a little sometimes series, featuring some of those goers. People doing ace things. And why not start with family….

About a year ago now, my sister and her partner and Cousin Owlet moved into a new house. They discovered that there was a cellar under the house with a strange tub thing in it… and after a little research, discovered it was a fermenter. Whoever lived there before had lovingly built a place to ferment and store wine. So being the goers they are, the new tenants decided to buy a load of grapes and invite over some wine-making pals and a whole bunch of friends and throw a party! They discovered messy, noisy fun and a sense of community in the process and a whole new idea emerged. It's permaculture in action, creativity and fun in all the best kinds of ways. It's involving people in the process of making their own wine - what better way to learn about it and understand it? 

So they're in the process of setting up an urban winery in Melbourne. There they'll be aiming to share the fun, messy, noisy winemaking process with the broader community and introduce a whole bunch of people to the joys of the process of wine and winemaking, in a non-wine-snobby sort of way. I love it, and were I living nearby, I'd be in there stomping those grapes and labelling those bottles… Gladly, I'll get to drink a drop from those bottles, at least. I'm so looking forward to tasting the result of this really ace thing that they're doing. 

You can find out more about the Noisy Ritual project here. If you like the concept to, why not get involved? Stomp some grapes! Or order a bottle and toast some lovely people doing ace things. 


Do you know any goers? 
Any people doing ace things? 
Are you one maybe? 
Or maybe you have a little quiet thing you've been thinking about? Go do it! It'll be ace! xx

27 October 2014

Unschool Monday :: The best and worst bits

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Recently, I was interviewed by Rachael from Mogantosh for an article on the Mamabake blog, about homeschooling. There are some lovely interviews with other home educating parents there too, so go have a read. The interview was slightly edited to fit with Mamabake's Curiosity without Judgment series… I admit I may have been slightly snarky about the socialisation question, but from what I can gather, most of us were. Oh that question! Ha!

Anyway, a really lovely exercise we were asked to do (which didn't make the cut), was to ask the owlets what the best and worst bits of home/unschooling were. And then reflect on it myself. I found the owlets answers interesting, reflecting on their experiences of being out in the world, or their perceptions of school based on what they see in the media or hear from friends who've been there… so I thought I might share their answers here... 

Big Owlet:

The best thing: Being with our family.
The worst thing: Sometimes people can tease you because they don't understand it.

Little Owlet: 

The best thing: You don't get bossed around.
The worst thing: Nothing.

Tiny Owlet:

The best thing: Co-op!
The worst thing: Poo! (Her 3yo go-to answer when there's nothing to say - ha!)

Me: 

The best thing: Can't pick just one, but my top two might be… Flexibility/freedom and witnessing the moment the owlets grasp a new concept.
The worst thing: Saying goodbye to Huz each morning. The 9-5 routine wears thin after a while when there's so much going on where we are! It's difficult juggling a relatively unstructured way of living with a structured one, but hardest of all for him, I expect.*  


What are the best and worst bits of your family rhythm? Whether you choose to home educate/ unschool/ school your childen, what works (or doesn't) about it for you? 

Have a gorgeous week. xx


*The exciting thing is we're now, finally, after much deliberation, shifting the balance for Huz a bit (and me!), by letting go one day of his paid employment per week so I can work a little bit more and he gets more time with owlets and nature. More on that soon. xx

26 October 2014

Seedlings

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Last night, very late (perhaps because we're a little nervous and excited about it and wanted to start with a whisper…) Huz pressed post and we shared something pretty big that we've been working on. We moved from that excited limbo state where your project is still an idea, onto that OMG moment where your work is out there for all the world to see. Within an hour we had our first participant sign up (a gorgeous, supportive friend who we're ever so grateful for) and we headed off to bed. This is real now. It's a thing. This morning we were joking that we might have to make up a bunch of fake Facebook identities to follow through with the whole online community we're aiming to create for our lovely participant - oh we're going to be busy alright! Haha! I hope she's not the only one. I hope… 

After Huz's Permaculture Design Certificate finished, we found ourselves to be a pair of passionate, optimistic permaculturalists, looking for ways to get our hands dirty, and not just in our own backyards. Big Owlet saw us gardening and talking and planning and wanted in on it. She wanted to know what we knew. So she asked us to teach her. This unschooled kid, who's never really asked to be taught much at all, wanted to know all about permaculture too. A seed was planted and so we began. 

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Over a number of weeks, we picnicked and talked and began with the permaculture principles, using some fun activities to back up our discussion. All the owlets took to it like ducks to water. We heard phrases and words entering their vocabulary and saw their confidence and understanding of our own permaculture design begin to make sense to them… So we wanted to share our experience with others and the Spiral Garden Seedlings program was born. 

Looking at the experience and backgrounds we have combined, I know we've come up with something that draws on all our strengths and knowledge to date. We're hoping to share a little of our experience as home educators, an ecologist, a designer, gardeners, parents and custodians of the earth. And we're hoping to inspire some connection and nurturing experiences for others. To help pass on some important life skills and welcome a whole new generation of earth custodians to the fray. 

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We discovered that in the process of passing on information to our owlets, we were revising our own permaculture learning and reinforcing it. We realised that by reaching out to families, we can not only pass this information onto children, but to their parents too. And as my mum just called to tell us, their grandparents as well! Three generations of wonderful humans working to look at the world and nurture it in a way that can only be good. I'm looking forward to getting to know them and work with them too.  It's a big job, so let's begin… xx

You can find the Spiral Garden Seedlings website and more information here.

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7 October 2014

The Great Owlet Zine Swap

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We've been having fun re-discovering making zines this week. Collecting things we like, drawings and funny little things and cutting and pasting and giggling as we read. Zines are so much fun! But we got to thinking how we'd like to read zines from families all over the place. Share some creativity and ideas and have a little fun with snail mail!

So we'd like to invite you to join us in a mini-zine swap…

A mini-zine is an eight page, A6 sized booklet made from a single A4 sized sheet of paper. You can make it in colour or black and white and make as many copies as you like, using a photocopier or scanner and printer. We made ours in an afternoon! Would you like to give it a go?

Here's how it works:

1. Let us know via email that you'd like to be involved. Include your mailing address so we can match you up with other zine makers in interesting places.
2. Make a mini zine. You might make one per child or one per family, whatever works for you.
3. Make 10 copies of your zine.
4. You'll receive 10 mailing addresses for recipients of your zine. Post your copies to these addresses!
5. Wait for the postie to bring you 10 different zines to read!

Things you might include in your zine:

Artwork
Recipes
Tutorials
Games
Jokes
Stories
Something about you… Anything that you feel like doing or writing or drawing will be great!

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If this turns out to be fun for everyone, we might make it a more regular thing, but for now, we're just hoping to share and read some great zines!

Join in by emailing your snail mail address to owletmama@gmail.com

Find some great tutorials for making mini zines here and here.

6 October 2014

Unschool Monday :: Privilege

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It's one of those tricky questions that comes up… Education is, to some, a privilege that many over the world go without. Especially girls. Shouldn't we feel grateful for it? Without formalised education, how will they find their place in society as adults?

When we were talking with Big Owlet about Malala Yousafzai,  she asked us "But why would she fight so hard for something that we don't need?" And so began a lengthy discussion of the privileges of living in a small, peaceful island at the bottom of the world, with access to clean air and water and food and education. Of two parents who have spent long enough within the education system to pass on a large portion of our own formal learnings, should they be required. And with the freedom to give the owlets the kind of education and childhood they desire. And how so many don't have what we have. We are SO lucky.

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But then we spend time talking about permaculture and then traditional or lost ways of doing things. About survival and living in the real world and what that might mean. About nature and what we can learn from just observing it… The irony that we're rejecting mainstream schooling and embracing life learning through permaculture, while less commercially developed nations reach for formal education with open arms,  isn't lost on us. And I can understand Big Owlet's confusion. The truth is, we're conflicted about the concept of formal education for everyone too, when we don't choose it for ourselves, and explaining the complexity of it to our owlets feels confusing, even for us adults.

Last week I finally sat down to watch the film Schooling the World: The White Man's Last Burden. I re-watched it with Huz yesterday morning and I may watch it with Big Owlet when I think she'll fully grasp it. I was a little gobsmacked watching it the first time. It cleared up a few conflicts for me and tapped away a little more at that deschooling process we've been going through for over 5 years now.

The film raised questions around the mass loss of culture and language across the world, brought on by the western education movement of the last 200 years. The fate of people educated in the school system worldwide. The ushering of people towards a consumer society and away from a sustainable one. Westernised education has moved quickly and with a defined purpose. Are people better off with it, or without? Lots of food for thought and although we don't have answers for Big Owlet yet, it does make us question our position on the supposed privilege we choose to opt out of. And the privilege we have to ponder such things.

If you have a chance to watch it, do. And let me know what you think, won't you?

Have a gorgeous week. xx

30 September 2014

Why we love the farmers' market

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We're getting into a little rhythm in our nest. Having sworn off big supermarkets a couple of months ago, we've started to notice we're managing to pick something from the garden for most meals. Finally! We get a delivery from a local shop roughly once a fortnight, with ethical meats and staples we need, which has been brilliant. Next we're working on a food and essentials co-op with our homeschool co-op buddies so we can order organic, awesome staples at a price our mostly-single-income families can afford.

The final piece of the puzzle for us has been going semi-regularly to the farmers' market. Here's how it works:

1. Arrive and secure donuts or bagels or freshly shucked oysters or something equally amazing for breakfast. Scoff at leisure.
2. Flag down some seasonal veg that we don't have growing in our garden just yet - this will diminish over time, all going well.
3. Find some ethical meat from happy animals. Right now we're loving goat.
4. Pick up a pot of local raw honey and locally roasted coffee.
5. Check out plants, seeds or spuds to take home and grow our own. Or just to admire and get excited about.

Here's why it's so great:

1. The food is so fresh! The veggies we buy last much longer (like, weeks longer) than any supermarket bought produce.
2. We know the people we buy all the produce from. We can ask them about how they grow their food and we see the care and pride they take in it.
3. Sometimes we bump into friends we haven't caught up with in a while, or just share a wave and a hallo across the crowd. That's a bit nice!
4. The donuts and bagels and oysters and… well, you get the picture.

Best of all, the owlets see the transaction of money passing hands and each item being directly paid for, rather than just a big credit card bill at the end, paid for by plastic. It's more real for them and for us. And they like to be involved in buying things too. Unlike the supermarket, which is usually a place we'd rather leave as soon as we've stepped inside, the farmers' market is like a regular community-building experience each time. And one we talk about after the event. It's like we haven't been out to do the shopping at all! See you there next week? xx

Some beautiful resources for talking more about farmers' markets with your owlets:

To Market, To Market, by Nikki McClure.

Alternating between story and fact, this lovingly-crafted picture book follows a mother and son to the weekly market. As they check off items on their shopping list, the reader learns how each particular food was grown or produced - from its earliest stages to how it ended up at the market.  Find it here

Let's Go to the Farmer's Market Kit.

This kit contains everything kids need to have tons of fun at the farmers' market: a strawberry tote bag, 20 activity cards, an informative booklet about farms and the farmers' market, plus a shopping list pad. Find it here. 








29 September 2014

You say frittata, I say fruittata...

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Our hands down favourite, most simple grain-free breakfast… Or lunch… Or dinner when there's no time and nothing but eggs and bits and pieces… Frittata is our go to. Here's our version.

First I'll pop out to the garden and see what's fresh… Lately it's broccoli and silver beet and herbs. Sometimes there are left over roast veggies too. And if I'm lucky, the chooks will have laid enough eggs for the whole recipe.

Back inside after a quick nip out the back door, I'll quickly blanch the veg and have a look if there are any pine nuts or things like that to roast and throw in. Sometimes I'll caramelise some onions or sauté some leeks… Sometimes I won't. Sometimes I'll just grate a zucchini.

Then I whisk up four eggs in a bowl and oil, butter or coat the base of a frypan in ghee while it warms up a bit…

Next I add the cooked veggies and nuts and bits to the pan and scatter herbs and maybe a bit of parmesan on top. Cook the bottom on the stove for a bit and then cook the top under the griller until puffy and golden and just like you want to eat it. And serve!

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If we're feeling a bit sweet tooth-y or fruity, we'll swap the veggies for some fresh or semi-thawed frozen berries, cooked pear or rhubarb, and maybe a splash of maple syrup, and make a fruittata! Served with cream, of course. Perfect for Sunday morning breakfasts or last minute desserts. Little Owlet will ask for the fruittata every time.

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Best of all, the owlets love making it themselves and sharing it. It's our go-to-any-time-of-day meal. It's our main table-to-plate-in-fifteen-minutes meal too, which means we feel extra brilliant and smug while we eat it. And it's one of the only recipes we have that everyone almost always agrees on. That's a major win in my book.

Do you have a favourite go-to recipe?
Are you a frittata or fruittata person?
What are you eating from the garden right now? 

Happy Tuesday. xx

15 September 2014

Unschool Monday :: The creative flow...

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A couple of months ago, you may remember I was lucky to have been granted a scholarship spot in Pip's Inspiration Information ecourse. I had been in the midst of a bit of a creative slump and I was hoping to draw myself out of it just a teeny bit. Setting aside a little time to write and draw and think was a wonderful discipline. But, in reality, to fit it all in, I needed to involve the Owlets. Big Owlet is always up for some creative learning so she was more than happy to join in the more practical aspects. And the other two always want to follow her lead. So we launched into some simple, fun collage and talked about creative heroes. 

Using old magazines we had on hand and working with colour and shape, as quickly as we could… 

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Then I began remembering. I told them how I would sit up the back of life drawing classes and tear paper to represent the model. Trying desperately not to attract attention in a quiet room. We giggled about that. We talked about Matisse. And then Little Owlet remembered that Eric Carle works in collage, so we ended up watching the Mr Roger's Neighbourhood episode where he visits Eric Carle. And that's how unschooling flows… 

I love that. When you get swept along by a creative thought and before long you're in a totally different place to where you started. But you've learnt so much, just talking and observing together. And those learnings have sunk in, because you've created memories of more than one kind. 

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Next I was prompted to delve a little deeper into the work of a creative hero, so I chose Mirka Mora. Sensing her style and some themes she covers might appeal to the owlets, we dove in. We looked at her drawings and paintings and dolls. We talked about Mirka herself and her life and anecdotes and looked at old pictures of places we knew. 

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Remembering the windows Mirka painted at Heide, we set about making our own kitchen windows cheerful and bright for the final months of Winter. Big Owlet took to Mirka's style immediately, with her talent for faces. And so, with an interest shared, we were able to follow up with a visit when we were in Melbourne. 

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Three generations of art-loving women, following the creative flow to its source. And being inspired all over again. 

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As for me and my creative slump… well I suppose it wasn't really a slump, so much as a bit of burnout and needing some time and space to get stuck into things. Keeping my cup full. But remembering that through much of my creative process I have Owlet pals along for the ride (and that isn't such a bad thing), was helpful. I just need to keep that in mind, stop compartmentalising my time, and share the inspiration and see where it leads us all. There are great learning and creating days ahead, indeed. 

Do you create alongside your Owlets?
Has a creative idea led you to something you didn't expect? 
How do you manage time to create or do the things you love? 

14 September 2014

When life gives you neighbours…

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Every time our minds wander to getting away from it all and moving to some isolated patch of bush, we think about all the good things we have where we are.  Wonderful neighbours is certainly on our list. Even though we are that family in our street… The house with artwork and fingerprints splashed all over the front windows… With Owlets roaring (sometimes nude), around the garden during the daytime. And a weedy, unkempt garden it often is, by most standards. We're that family who are always home and loud and choose to do things a little bit differently. Some of our neighbours choose not to engage and keep heads down as they run from the car to the sanctuary of home.  But the neighbours who do say hello and make time make our street a beautiful and supportive extended family, of sorts. A community.

Over the back fence is a piano teacher who has helped Owlets learn when they've shown interest. Happy for us to fling a ladder over the back fence, she gladly catches them on the other side for a half-hour lesson. And wonderfully, she's not been offended when they decide to give it up, or begin again. Recently her house guests asked to feed our chooks weeds from the garden as they work, having seen us do the same on our side. And so we discovered another beautiful connection for our permaculture design.

Next door on one side, we have a neighbour who has a beautiful, wild garden and she's happy for our Owlets to explore it. There's an amazing dolls house inside, the Owlets tell me. And more than once, we've been given a cup of sugar, a pile of newspapers or a handful of lavender, when we've needed it.

On the other side are neighbours who the Owlets have adopted as surrogate grandparents. Tiny likes to ring the doorbell and say "hi", if she hasn't seen them in a while. They knew our house better than we did when we first moved in and they're always a wealth of information about our street. They assure me that on the night Tiny was born, they heard nothing - although how that can be, I have no idea!

Next door, they are around most days, like us, and pottering in the garden, like us. Their garden is neat, well tended and abundant, with more than enough food for their meals and plenty to share. Often I've seen our neighbour popping in to houses in our street with apples or lemons for who ever is home. Sometimes it's us. Once it was a posie of violets to say she thought I was a great Mum. She had four kids of her own, you see... And there are plenty of times the Owlets have been handed a bowl of raspberries over the fence to gobble up gleefully on the way inside to tell me about it, red stained chin and all…

"Neighbourhood" by Phoebe Wahl. Available in our shop!
We have rather low fences in our neighbourhood, so we've had to become comfortable with company outdoors. Often a head will appear at the fence and we'll get to talking about how the broccoli's growing or why the lemon tree might not be thriving in that spot. Over the years, the next-door neighbours have witnessed our experiments with soil improvement and no-dig gardening and they've shown keen interest. Tut-tutting the weeds at this particularly lush time of year - I suspect they're being polite as we endeavour to get on with the business of growing food, despite the weeds. They're interested to witness the latest transformation as our permaculture design takes shape. And I think we're winning some clout as we seem to have luck with cauliflower.

We've been the glad recipients of a tiny rhubarb plant from next door, which is now huge and adorning our food forest. One of the enormous tomatoes passed over the fence was saved for the seed we have growing in seed trays in the lounge room… And we're more than glad to help out with the lemon glut when we collect the mail while they're away on holidays.

These neighbours embody the permaculture ethics of people care and fair share so well. I suspect that they see success the way I do; that true success is not just being able to feed your own family, but those around you too. And spreading a little joy along the way… I've been giving a little thought to how we can work to make this friendship a little more reciprocal. To be better neighbours and have enough to share (more than the odd cup of milk or stick of butter - although these are helpful too!). Enough useful stuff anyhow, and choosing a few things that are not in our neighbour's garden has been in the back of our minds while putting together our permaculture plan. To begin with, I think it might be a few eggs. They don't have chooks. And when some of the fruit trees grow up a bit, maybe some quinces or pears or cherries. I may just save some seed from the cauliflower and maybe our neighbour will finally have luck with that too, as we have. Hopefully there'll be enough to share with other neighbours too. Even the ones who don't have time for a chat.

This is how community building starts. Its how Owlets find mentors and friends of all ages. Its how we find support and our garden grows stronger. And it's how, when you think there's nothing much in the cupboard, you suddenly have the fixings for Lemon & Rhubarb cake…

Lemon & Rhubarb Cake

5 rhubarb stalks cut into 2cm pieces
1/3 cup rapadura/coconut sugar/raw sugar/maple syrup/alternative
125g soft butter
1 cup of rapadura/organic raw sugar/ honey/rice malt syrup. Add less if you like it less sweet.
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup SR flour
100ml yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Grease and line a 20-22cm springform cake pan

Toss the rhubarb with rapadura and set aside
Cream the butter & larger quantity of sugar/sugar alternative.
Add lemon zest and then the eggs, one at a time.
Stir through the lemon juice.
Fold the flours in gently, a little at a time, alternating with the yoghurt.
Fold in the rhubarb.

Spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes, until browned on top.
Test the cake with a skewer. If the skewer comes out with some cake batter on it, cook for another 5 minutes and repeat.
Cool for 15 minutes before removing the tin.
Dust with icing sugar if you like - we don't think it needs it!

Adapted from Allan Campion and Michele Cranston's Rhubarb Lemon Cake in Every Day Cooking. 
Published by Hardie Grant Books in 2006.







3 September 2014

The pretty way...

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When I was small, my Dad would often ask us kids in the back seat of the car, which way we wanted to go. "The pretty way!!" we'd shout out with enthusiasm. He always knew the windy, beautiful, wandering ways to get to most places in our city. And if he didn't know, he'd find his way… All the roads join up somewhere…

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This has pretty much been how I've rolled ever since. Just slowing down, following the road ahead, keeping an open mind and seeing what life has to offer. When I've attempted to get from A-B in the most direct way, I've often felt like I took a wrong turn somewhere. I suppose it's a bit like taking the road less travelled. It's why I live in Tasmania. It's why our owlets are unschooled… Sometimes it's a little like hurtling along downhill without brakes. But usually it's slow and colourful and infinitely more interesting and satisfying.

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It's the kind of thinking behind this app, which totally appeals to me. Shouldn't we all be trying to find the most beautiful way?

Hope you're having a beautiful week!

So much love. xo

2 September 2014

Hello Spring!

We're SO ready for Spring… Aren't you? Astonished that we've survived another Tasmanian winter with spirits relatively intact (even if immune systems aren't right now), we're ready for everything that's to come. Excited, in fact! You see, this winter Huz forfeited every second weekend with us in order to achieve his Permaculture Design Certificate. Some of those weeks were the longest I can remember. Being homeschooling parent in charge, without a break for two weeks straight, means that I'm claiming a teeny bit of his achievement for myself too… And letting out a huge sigh of relief we can get back to some relatively normal family time in our nest.

But what it mostly means is that we're now a two-permaculture-designer family! Both of us now see the world through permaculture goggles, and what a positive, beautiful world it is! It also means we're cooking up some delicious plans, both for our garden, our business and our future. Neither of us is really sure what might happen. It might just be a bumper raspberry harvest, but we're slipping on our adventure gumboots and finding out.


We're beginning slowly with our most important task, to bring the owlets up to speed. They've been learning by osmosis until now, but they're keen to know more… And I really can't think of more important life skills to pass on.

Are you glad Spring is here?
Any delicious plans on your horizon?
How does your garden grow?

xx


30 August 2014

Starting a home school co-op :: finding your tribe

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When we first moved to Tasmania, part of the allure was the prospect of finding our tribe. People who would approach life similarly to us and be there to support us, and us them. When we began home educating, we knew more than ever that we needed to find that tribe. But here's the thing, although we had wonderful friends all over the place, a tribe they were not. Yet. 

And so we learnt, slowly, that in order to find a community, you need to build it. 

So set about building it we did. The path hasn't always been smooth, but it has been enriching and fulfilling and I'm happy to report that we now have that tribe and love them with all our hearts…

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Three years ago, I wandered past the local playground and noticed some work had been finished on a little cottage within the playground perimeter. A little research revealed the cottage was available for hire and so with a seed of an idea, I took to Facebook to ask some friends… "Would you come along to a homeschooling group?" A bunch of positive replies later and the Hobart Natural Learner's Co-op was born. I chose the word co-op, as the intention was that it was run co-operatively between families and although it has swayed from that intention from time to time, the intention is there and what we have created now is a nurturing, loving extended family for our children. And a network of caring, supportive and interested friends to spend each week with. 

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What does an unschooling/homeschooling co-op look like? 

Each will be different, but here's what ours looks like: We meet at our cottage on the same day each week. Usually I'll open up, seeing I'm the local with the key. Friends will wander in and we'll slowly unpack art materials to give children free access, tea and coffee supplies and books from our recyclibrary. Then we'll wander outside and I'll push Tiny on the swing for a good half hour (I have playground RSI - seriously). 

If its a sunny day, we'll spread out some picnic rugs and have a chat in the sun as friends arrive through the morning. If we've organised an activity, we'll set that up and begin when most families are there. For the most part, the children are just happy to play. Our space is fantastic for a range of ages, as it has a fenced playground looking out to an open field. The older children tend to spend most of their time out there, enjoying space to run and a little freedom from the adults and smaller children. If they're more keen on play than an activity, we don't push it. But usually at least a few children will get involved and the adults have fun and learn lots too! Some weeks we run workshops facilitated by teachers brought in to pass on a specific skill, which shakes up our program a bit and keeps things interesting.

Later in the afternoon, a small group will usually wander over to our community garden plot to investigate how it's growing, weed, mulch or water and harvest.  Some weeks we wander down to the beach or the skate park through the gully, making sure to return in time to share the packing up and a last cuppa for the day. Each week is diverse and as gentle as it can be on members, who are glad for the company and friendship. Generally we arrive home exhausted, but with hearts full, looking forward to next week. 

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Running the administration and tricky bits...

Another founding member is the group treasurer and she takes care of the money tin and sign in sheet. I organise insurance through the Home Education Network. We've changed our format over the years but currently we offer seasonal memberships. Each family signs on for a season and pays up-front, with the intention to come to as many weeks as possible. The benefit of this is reduced paperwork for our treasurer, and commitment from members… 

We keep a Facebook group for communication between families and brainstorming ideas. All ideas are welcome and encouraged and if families have a skill or something to share with the group, we'll fit that in. We're providing a support network of mentors and other reliable adults around for our children, which is so wonderful.

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Words of advice for setting up your own co-op...

1) Buddy up - I read this wonderfully helpful blog post a while ago, when we almost threw in the towel, which suggested you just need to find at least one other family who are willing to commit to showing up every week. And so our trusty treasurer /long-time dear friend and I set about showing up, no matter what. If you build it, they will come, hey? 

2) Be consistent - We've tried fortnightly meet ups and twice-weekly… But the right balance for the whole group seems to be one day each week. Consistency is the key to maintaining friendships. It keeps that day free in everyone's heads and creates a beautiful rhythm for the children - Yay! Co-op day! Or… how many sleeps until co-op? 

3) Pick a format - It might work better for you to leave it an open invitation - this is especially helpful when you are wanting to locate other like-minded families. You may prefer a big gathering. For our group, a week-to-week format meant flexibility and welcoming lots of people to our community, but it also meant we didn't know who to expect each week. On weeks where there was a really awesome activity, suddenly we'd have huge numbers of people. Which can be wonderfully abundant and so lovely. But it can also mean that lots of the organising and clean-up can fall on the shoulders of a couple of people. And then it feels weird on the weeks where there are only a few of you again… We've fairly recently chosen a seasonal subscription format with just one big abundant, casual visit, open day each season. This is with the intention of knowing who to expect each week and everyone contributing equally. It's smaller, but closer knit and is helping to draw skills and interests out of the quieter members as they grow more comfortable with our group - mission accomplished! A co-op!

4) Be open and stick to the plan - Try and keep the lines of communication open for everyone to have a voice. At the same time, act in the best interests of the group and work to maintain your combined vision. Sometimes this may mean re-thinking how you do things. Sometimes this will ruffle feathers. That's ok. Stick with it.

5) Your co-op isn't for everyone - You may be left scratching your head about why a good friend feels your group isn't for them. You may have expressed a desire to take everyone's ideas on board and make your group work for everyone who's willing to contribute. And they still might not feel comfy. And that's totally ok! You may find some members identify a common bond and set up their own group that suits them better - how wonderful!! And possibly heartbreaking. And wonderful!! You possibly have an extended group of friends out there and a broader, more enriching and diverse range of activities available to you. Awesome! Communities will shift and grow and shrink and move all around. Your job is to stay zen with it, catch up with the people who matter at other times, and just build that little tribe slowly and steadily. 

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It's putting yourself on the line a bit, but so rewarding when you find a friendly bunch to just share the time with. It becomes a highlight of your weeks. A social outlet and support for the more difficult days. And a place to celebrate the best days together. 

Happy tribe building. xx